The Strokes’ long-awaited sixth album, “The New Abnormal,” finds new ways to express that none of the members have lost touch with a sound that shaped music in the 21st century.
For fans, the album offers a refreshing nostalgia for a legendary band whose music, like its members, mature, improve and persist in an era where guitar bands are becoming more of an obscurity in a music industry obsessed with SoundCloud rappers and MIDI instruments.
In fact, frontman Julian Casablancas’ voice reaches a new high — both metaphorically and literally — throughout the album. A falsetto timidly explored in their previous album Comedown Machine becomes a well-crafted, unwavering mainstay in Casablancas’ repertoire.
While maintaining some of the post-punk-garage-rock that brought the band to fame, “The New Abnormal” is a departure from the expectations of their listeners. Washed out synths and organs flush out the background to the usual treble guitars from members Albert Hammond Jr. and Nick Valensi.
Perhaps the most surprising change in instrumentation comes from drummer Fabrizio Moretti, whose usual driven eighth-note rock beats stay true to a classic Strokes’ tone but find new swagger and swing. Nevertheless, this new style out of Moretti does not cost the band their classic syncopated nature.
The ever-solid, ever-overlooked bassist Nikolai Fraiture maintains his casual, blended low end. Fraiture offers the exact right note, at the exact right time -- every time. His performance on this album falls nothing short of brilliant, and he, like the band overall, continues to make the complex and intricate seem nonchalant.
After a few years of hiatus, the band returns to show exactly how much they’ve learned and progressed as musicians in their work apart from The Strokes. Influence from Casablancas’ side-project The Voidz (which eventually took precedent during The Strokes’ hiatus) is clearly noted throughout the expansive middle of the album.
Songs like “Brooklyn Bridge To Chorus” and “At The Door” feature expressive distorted synths that only compliment Casablancas’ cool vocals. Where Casablancas’ voice was once the most distorted instrument, it now has a clear tone juxtaposed to the synths previously absent from the band’s sound.
While every song manages to shape the band’s departure from previous disguises, “Bad Decisions” and “Ode To The Mets” manage to find an intrinsic memory that The Strokes cannot escape from. These songs’ anthemic-driven eighth notes cement a euphoric return for the band and their fans.
This may not be an album as prolific and fortuitous as their debut, “Is This It,” however, it is a significant nudge to the listener that The Strokes are not done. They will not be forgotten.
This album is further proof that The Strokes can manage to shape an already established tone into current musical standards without sacrificing any originality or ingenuity.